The past months of architecture shows have been marked by superlatives: Bi- and triennials in Chicago, Lisbon, London, Rotterdam, Santiago de Chile, Sharjah, Shenzhen, and Venice offered attention-grabbing global spectacles that penetrated beyond the narrow public interest that is usually afforded displays of architecture. Not to be outdone by blockbuster retrospectives featuring a generation of starchitects who shaped the discourse for decades and are now nearing the end of their careers—think Norman Foster in Paris or Herzog de Meuron in London.
A welcome addition to this roster of usual suspects—and hopefully representative of the future of architecture exhibitions—were solo shows of equally prolific, yet often underappreciated, creators outside the Western hemisphere’s purview such as Marina Tabassum in Munich or Yasmeen Lari in Vienna—both of whom have won laudable accolades in recent months, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Lisbon Triennale and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, respectively. Human-centered stories continue to be at the forefront of many curators’ minds to expand the way architecture’s usefulness in society can be appraised and understood: from experiences of teenagers to homelessness to protest camps to designs for war-torn areas to ideas of sustainability and circularity.
aer, too, is maturing. In the past year we published twenty-seven reviews by critics from four continents. Our new columns “Shows I Wish I Had Seen” and “Ten After Five” aim free us from the daily hustle to include historical perspectives and bring in often lesser-heard voices of curators, designers, and writers to unravel the way exhibitions are conceived—past and present. And we only just started.
While exhibitions have become more focused on sober study and storytelling, museums are in no way as stuffy as Ben Stiller’s “Night at the Museum” may suggest. In 2008, NPR estimated that visitor numbers for the roughly 17.500 museums in the United States beat attendance at all major league sporting events combined 6:1.